From December 1 to 3, 2023, Pope Francis will be visiting Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), to attend the United Nations’ climate conference, COP28. The Vatican published the Pontiff’s schedule on November 9 and it shows that he will deliver just one speech in this short trip and will not celebrate any public Masses with the local Catholic community. Instead, private bilateral meetings, probably with heads of state and government, are planned during the conference.
This will be the Pope’s 45th trip outside Italy since 2013, and his second to the United Arab Emirates, following his visit in 2019.
Friday, December 1
Pope Francis will travel on Friday, December 1, on a plane chartered by ITA Airways. He will take off from Rome’s Fiumicino airport at 11:30 a.m. (UTC+1) for Dubai’s World Central International airport, where his plane is due to land at 8:25 p.m. (UTC+4; therefore it will be 5:25 p.m. in Rome). A welcoming ceremony will be held at the airport (1).
For the time being, the Holy See Press Office did not specify where the Pope will be staying during his trip.
Saturday, December 2
The following day, Pope Francis will go to Dubai’s Expo City, a vast complex built for the World Expo (October 2021-March 2022). It is here that the COP28 will be held, from November 30 to December 12, where around 200 countries will be represented.
The Argentine Pontiff will deliver the only speech of his trip at 10 a.m. (2). The day before, King Charles III will open the climate conference. The heads of state and government usually speak on the very first day of the COP. At last year’s summit in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, around 110 leaders spoke.
Starting at 10:30 a.m., the Pope will take part in private bilateral meetings (3), the schedule explains. After a break, these closed-door meetings will resume at 3:30 p.m. The Holy See has not yet shared who Pope Francis will meet with. It is possible that the head of the Catholic Church will take advantage of this event, that brings together politicians and decision-makers of the highest level, to discuss current international crises, especially the conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East.
Sunday, December 3
After a second night in Dubai, Pope Francis will inaugurate the “Faith Pavilion” at 9 a.m., also located in Expo City (4). The purpose of this pavilion is to bring together religious leaders concerned with the environment during the COP to promote the role of faith in the ecological transition and combatting climate change.
On this occasion, Pope Francis will greet those attending. He will then leave for Dubai’s international airport, where a farewell ceremony will take place at 10:15 a.m. After a flight lasting almost seven hours, the Pope’s plane will land at Rome Fiumicino airport at 2:40 p.m. local time.
As is customary, the soon-to-be 87-year-old Pope is expected to hold a press conference during the return flight of what will be his 6th international trip of 2023.
Pope Francis will not be celebrating a public mass during this trip dedicated to the COP28, according to the schedule. The United Arab Emirates are home to around 1 million Catholics, most of whom come from the Philippines or India.
In February 2019, on the occasion of his trip to Abu Dhabi to sign the Document on Human Fraternity, the head of the Catholic Church celebrated mass in a stadium. It was the first time a Pope had set foot on the Arabian Peninsula, the cradle of Islam. In 2022, the pontiff returned to the Gulf, to the Kingdom of Bahrain, to take part in an interreligious summit.